Microcontroller based photoelectric sensor
Performance improvements to maintain competitiveness
Technologies used


Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    333 Design and assembly of industrial process control equipment
INFRA S.r.l., a private company with 187 employees, started operating in 1973 manufacturing photoelectric sensors (photoelectric barriers) and industrial control parts for automation.(prodcom code: 3330 - instrument for measurements industrial sector - Design and assembly of industrial process control equipment).
Since 1986 the manufacturing of sensors has become the main activity of the company with increasingly different types of models: in 1985 we developed the optical proximity sensors, in 1988 the first inductive sensor family was introduced and in 1990 the capacitive sensors were developed. All these sensors make use of the existing technology, namely discrete analogue electronics.
At the start of the AE, the company's production includes different types of sensors in several realisations : Inductive, Capacitive, Photoelectric, Magnetic, own development and customer specific applications.
The main customers of company are manufacturers of different types of machines (textile, printing, labelling, packaging).
The main application fields are: Automation, Packaging machines, Labelling machines, movement control of goods, distance measurement.
In this project, an enhanced photoelectric sensor type using the triangular measurement method has been developed using a microcontroller and a PSD (Position Sensitive Detector). The product to be improved presented some negatives technical features that had to be overcome for preventing the decreasing of market share add new functionalities like auto-test and communication capability actually not available.
The advantage of the new sensor as compared to our existing photoelectronic sensors can be resumed in: exact distance measurement, measure independently of the colour and surface of the object, analogue distance measurement and interference free measurement (from surrounding light conditions), These improvements represented the main objectives of the AE.
The project duration was of 9 months and the AE budget was 42 KEUR. The industrialisation cost are about 42Keur. The expected payback period is 13 months. For the estimation of the ROI we considered a lifetime of the product of 4 years as in the case of our standard products: it corresponds to 400%. These values have been calculated without industrialisation costs.
Already market requests for other applications (persons detection) indicates that internal replication will follow in a short time.
Our company has learned to work with microcontrollers and we have now also a technical staff of improved technical experience. Due to the nature of the application, programming in assembler language was mainly used. Initialisation has been done in "C", a very slow language for real-time applications with the chosen microcontroller.
Infra s.r.l.
via Zamenhof 402
I-36100 Vicenza

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Microcontroller technology provided Infra s.r.l. with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

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